Book Review – The Dinner Guest by B P Walter

books, reviews

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

It’s so hot that I can’t even think about reading anything. I was a mess yesterday that I don’t know how I’m going to cope at work. I know people make fun of the UK for having terrible weather but it’s true. We aren’t prepared for this kind of heat. We should all just agree that on days with a red weather warning, we all just stay home and try and read. Or at least listen to audiobooks. I think I could cope with that. Speaking of audiobooks, I borrowed this from the library recently after having the paperback for ages.

Matthew, a loving father and husband, is stabbed to death at the dinner table. Their new acquaintance Rachel is found with the bloody knife in her hands after confessing to the police. But why would Rachel want to kill Matthew? His husband had never trusted the young woman since they met in a bookshop. He didn’t like how close they were getting but would she really have killed Matthew? And what does it mean for the pair’s adopted son?

Normally, I’m not very impressed with contemporary crime fiction. I’m so used to figuring everything out early on and having to put up with some awkward attempts to drag out the inevitable reveal. I went into this book expecting to hate it and get bored pretty quickly. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge the whole crime genre. Yes, it was obvious who the killer was but I didn’t figure out the motive. Of course, this could be because the motive doesn’t make sense but it could be due to clever storytelling.

As with a lot of crime fiction these days, the narrative flips between the days following the murder and the days leading up to it. The perspective switches between Charlie, the victim’s husband, and Rachel, the girl who confessed to the murder. Inevitably, we are drip-fed important bits of information and several key things are hidden from us until the right moment. Usually, I find this annoying but this book did a better job with it. The hidden information makes sense and isn’t awkwardly kept from us. For example, a person’s name might be kept out of the narrative and they’ll be referred to as “she” instead. This is because the people talking about them obviously know who it is. It would make less sense to name them.

In terms of the story, I think it’s a little slow to get going and it does drag. This isn’t helped by the constant switching of perspectives. There are scenes that we go over twice from different perspectives. It didn’t really need it. I feel like a lot of Rachel’s POV could just be summarised towards the end. There are also a few plot points that don’t seem to go anywhere and characters that add nothing to the story. It feels like the book was trying to be something a bit more complex but then lost confidence in itself.

It also loses confidence in its ending. The final few chapters of the book are disappointing. I’m not entirely convinced by the big reveal and motivation behind the murder. Then everything that happens after that is just a bit odd. It could be that I just wanted the book to be over but I also don’t think it was a particularly strong ending. Still, this is a fairly enjoyable book and works as an easy read. It probably won’t blow you away but there are worse crime books out there.

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